The 20 best films to watch on MUBI right now, from Return to Seoul to Adaptation

Ji-Min Park as Freddie in Return to Seoul (Handout)
Ji-Min Park as Freddie in Return to Seoul (Handout)

One of the streaming platforms that has really come into its own over recent years is MUBI, home of foreign-language favourites, cult hits and undiscovered gems.

For years, the service worked by recommending a new film every day, with a rolling selection of movies that expired after 30 days.

Later, it expanded its selection with a permanent library of films. The selection marks out MUBI as one of the best places to discover the kind of interesting, esoteric movies that are often bypassed by other, more mainstream services.

And so here, we narrow down the brilliant selection by choosing our pick of the 20 best films to watch on MUBI right now. And, even better, the Standard has partnered with MUBI to offer readers 30 days of free streaming.


Described as a “thorny provocation” that “feels like a fever that just won’t break”, Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín (who would go on to direct the Oscar-nominated black comedy El Conde) tells the story of Ema, a young dancer who divorces her husband, resulting in their adopted son being sent back to an orphanage. Full of choreography, interesting shots of coastal town Valparaíso, and with a soundtrack from Nicolás Jaar, Larraín’s 2019 drama is a novel meditation on grief.

Our Body

Claire Simon’s Notre Corps (Our Body), a life-enhancing documentary, follows life on a gynecology ward in Paris. Still and observational, the French director allows the stories of those who pass through the ward to drive the film. It’s a savvy approach: there is so much of life here that this is more than enough. All manner of people pass through, from cancer patients and hopeful parents, to women dealing with endometriosis or going through hormone therapy.

The Beaches of Agnès

One of the world’s loveliest documentaries, this film from Belgian director Agnès Varda, one of her last, is a love letter to cinema, and to the friends, colleagues and loved ones who enriched her extraordinary life. A wondrous, humorous collage of videos, photographs and cartoons, the film, which is narrated by Varda, is unbelievably tender and heart-warming.


This fab, award-winning 2012 film from Haifaa al-Mansour, one of Saudi Arabia’s first female film directors, tells the story of a determined 10-year-old girl in Riyadh who is trying to save up for a bike. She signs up to a Quran recital competition in order to bag the SR1,000 cash prize (about $270).


Nicholas Cage stars as an imagined version of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman in this hilarious meta-comedy-drama, written by Kaufman. Cage’s Kaufman is a balding, anxious creative suffering with writer’s block. Then, his more free-spirited twin brother (also played by Cage) comes to stay and the story follows their adventures as fictional Kaufman tries to write the screenplay for Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief. Zany and surprising, Meryl Streep stars as Orlean with a twist, while Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Tilda Swinton, Ron Livingston, and Maggie Gyllenhaal also feature.


This lovely Icelandic film from Grímur Hákonarson tells the story of two highly competitive sheep farmer siblings, Gummi and Kiddi, who haven’t spoken for 40 years despite living next door to one another in the same remote town. When news breaks that all sheep in the valley need to be slaughtered due to a degenerative disease discovered among a flock, Gummi hides a few rams and ewes in his basement because they are the last of their breed. The hitch? Sheep are difficult animals to keep quiet, and things come to a head once the biohazard team arrives. United by their love of the rare sheep, the brothers finally start working together again.

Daughters of the Dust

Julie Dash’s award-winning film about three generations of Gullah women living on a sea island off the coast of South Carolina in the early 20th century still resonates as much as it did in 1991. Its exquisite visuals and colours, the poetic, almost choreographed sequence of the actors’ movements in many of the scenes, and their placement in each shot, made the film a hit with critics: when it was first released it was described as “mesmerizing”, “spellbinding” and “mysterious, fabular and sometimes dreamlike”. What a treat for MUBI subscribers that it’s now available.


A meta film about one legendary director’s appreciation for another, in Tokyo Ga (which means an image of Tokyo) German director Wim Wenders goes to Tokyo to explore the world of celebrated Japanese film director Yasujiro Ozu. Gentle, meandering and nostalgic, Wenders finds there’s not much of the world of Ozu (who died in 1963) left.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird

This Korean Western-comedy directed by Kim Jee-woon and starring Jung Woo-sung (Cobweb), Lee Byung-hun (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) and Song Kang-ho (The Host, Parasite) is a brilliant take on Sergio Leon’s 1966 spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. While individually hunting down a treasure map, the three cowboys cross paths. There are horse races across deserts, rifle fights on trains, explosions, motorbikes, more explosions, and face-to-face duels. In other words: so much fun.

Return to Seoul

This 2022 drama, written and directed by Davy Chou (Diamond Island), follows Korean-born Freddie (the utterly magnetic Ji-Min Park) who was adopted by a French family as a baby. Now, aged 25, she ends up in Seoul after her flight to Tokyo gets diverted. Almost accidentally, she contacts her birth parents, which not only changes the tone of her trip but the course of her life. Smart, thought-provoking, funny, and with an incredible score by Jérémie Arcache and Christophe Musset, this acclaimed film lingers in your mind.


A thriller set on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti, Pacifiction tells the story of French high commissioner Monsieur De Roller (Benoît Magimel) who has to look into a rumour about indigenous representatives on the island.

Spanish filmmaker Albert Serra has become known for producing ‘anti-narrative’ works that seem more interested in ambience than plot, and Pacifiction continues this approach. But, somehow, the slow ebb still produces thrilling effects. One critic said that danger and violence lurk “around the edges of the movie... It suggests John le Carré by way of David Lynch – a feverish and haunting but also wry and meditative rumination on power, secrecy and the colour of clouds over water at sunset.”

The Five Devils

This thrilling 2022 film from French director Léa Mysius tells the story of a young girl, Vicky (Sally Dramé), who has extraordinary olfactory powers. Vicky’s world changes when her father’s sister Julia (Swala Emati), a pyromaniac, comes to stay. Julia has a history with Vicky’s mother, Joanne (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and the sexual tension between the two women starts to grow. “Adèle Exarchopoulos excels in this dark, elemental drama,” said one newspaper. “A sensory delight that marks Léa Mysius as a filmmaker to get excited about.”

Shiva Baby

Emma Seligman’s directorial debut stars Rachel Sennott as Danielle, a disorganised college student with a secret sugar daddy. Immediately after one of her encounters with Max (Danny Deferrari) she runs to join her parents at the shiva (a Jewish post-funeral observance event) of a distant relative, being held at her aunt Sheila’s house. But who should also turn up? You guessed it! And as if things aren’t awkward enough, it turns out that Max is married, and his wife, Kim (Dianna Agron) is also there. Described as a “slick, sly comedy of New York Jewish manners” and “the most humid movie you’ve ever seen”, it’s tense, hilarious and compassionate.

High Life

Claire Denis’ strange sci-fi High Life centers on the lives of convicted criminals cast adrift in space, on a doomed mission to harvest the power of black holes. Robert Pattinson gives one of his strongest performances as a lost soul responsible for looking after a young child on board the ship. Juliette Binoche is also excellent as the obsessive Dr Dibs, who attempts to create new life through artificial insemination. The film’s non-linear narrative only adds to the film’s bewildering feel.

Holy Spider

This excellent thriller from Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi is based on the true story of a serial killer who stalked the streets of Mashhad (Iran’s second most populous city) in the early Noughties. In Abbasi’s vivid reimagining of the bloody case, Zar Amir Ebrahimi stars as Arezoo Rahimi, a journalist who starts to investigate the murders.

The Innocent

Directed by and starring Louis Garrel (The Dreamers, Little Women), comedy-thriller The Innocent tells the story of a prison theatre teacher Sylvie (Anouk Grinberg) who falls for an inmate, Michael (Roschdy Zem). When he is released, the two get together, which her son Abel (Garrel), is less than thrilled about. And so he starts spying on Michael with the help of his friend Clémence (Noémie Merlant), but their sleuthing backfires and the pair end up being pulled into one of Michael’s schemes.


This 2020 gem became one of the most acclaimed foreign-language films of the year when it arrived in 2019. The contemporary western tells the story of Brazilian villagers who are attacked by gun-wielding tourists, and the Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan described it as “agonisingly suspenseful” and “laugh out loud funny” in her five-star review. She went on to say: “Bacurau is in the same class as Parasite. In the words of Bong Joon Ho, 'Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.'"

The Staggering Girl

This arresting piece from Call Me By Your Name and Challengers director Luca Guadagnino is one of the most gorgeous short films on the site. With superb performances from a cast, including Julianne Moore, Mia Goth, KiKi Layne and Kyle MacLachlan, the story follows a New York-based writer who encounters geniuses and oddballs on her journey to retrieve her mother from Italy.


Two young Russian women attempt to rebuild their lives following the siege of Leningrad in WWII in this historical drama. In among the crumbling buildings, the pair look to find peace, serenity and hope in testing circumstances. Russian filmmaker Kantemir Balagov won the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Film in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2019 for the film.

Toni Erdmann

This German comedy directed, written and co-produced by German filmmaker Maren Ade, became a surprise international hit in 2016 after winning over global audiences. It tells the story of Toni (Peter Simonischek), a divorced father with a penchant for practical jokes, who makes a concerted effort to reconnect with his daughter.